Pioneering bill would allow altruistic donation of human ova

Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri says bill is "an important development" that can help many women who suffer because of shortage in ova.

After years of preparation by the government, the bill to allow human ova donations by women other than those undergoing fertility treatments was approved Monday by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. The bill, the first of its kind and due to be passed soon in the Knesset, is expected to relieve the serious shortage of ova needed by women who want to have babies. It will be presented for its first reading in the Knesset in a short time. Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri said the bill was "an important development for [infertile] women who want to get pregnant and become mothers. It is designed to resolve the ongoing problem that often caused suffering to those women who could not become mothers because of the serious shortage in ova." The old regulations that allowed only women who themselves undergo fertility treatments to donate some of their superfluous ova were set down out of concern that women would be "abused" and turned into "ova factories" for the sale of human eggs. But the resulting shortage of ova has led over the years to under-the-table deals and illegal actions by doctors seeking to supply the eggs to infertile women waiting for a donation for years. Doctors, ethicists, lawyers and social welfare professionals served on a public committee that made recommendations on which the bill was based. The legislation, prepared mostly in the Health Ministry's legal department, deals with the various sensitive aspects of ova donation, including the basic suitability of the donor and recipient (such as age and health status), informed consent of the donor, anonymity of the donation and the establishment of a special-cases committee that will allow occasional flexibility in the standards set down by the law. In addition, the details on ova donations and when they were made will be kept secret in a coded computerized registry. The bill states that the donor can receive information about the ova and determine what will be done with the eggs - either to produce babies and/or for research - on condition that the number of ova given for conception is higher than that used for other purposes. The protected registry of children born as a result of the donation will be kept, with data made available to allow adults to find out whether they were conceived as the result of an egg donation and to couples who want to make sure they are not close relatives (due the danger of genetic defects in their children). In addition, marriage registrars will be able to ask for a check for halachic purposes. All this will be carried out while protecting the identity of the donors. An official will be specially appointed to oversee the adoption registry as required by the Adoption Law.